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What is the Flu?

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Seasonal flu is a contagious respiratory illness that is caused by influenza viruses.  The flu season can start as early as October and can continue into May.  Flu viruses spread from human to human through droplets from coughing and sneezing.  The virus can cause mild-to-severe illness and, at times, can lead to death.  People at high risk of serious flu complications include young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease and people 65 years of age and older.

Symptoms may incude:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Dry cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle aches
  • Gastrointestinal pain, which may occur in children but are not common in adults

Flu Prevention

Here are some important facts that can help you avoid getting the flu:

  • A flu shot is the best way to prevent the flu.
  • The vaccines used to fight the flu are developed based on recommendations from the World Health Organization and are reviewed each year.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get vaccinated against the flu as soon as the 2013–2014 season vaccine is available.
  • It is important to get vaccinated each year.
  • Vaccination of high-risk individuals is especially important to lower their risk of severe flu illness.
  • Talk to your doctor about whether you should get the flu shot.

These good health habits can also help stop the spread of germs:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or, if soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or sleeve when you cough or sneeze.  Throw tissues into the trash after you use them.
  • Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth with your hands.
  • Avoid crowded areas, when possible.
  • Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, drink plenty of fluids and  eat a healthy diet.
  • When possible, keep your distance (more than 6 feet) from people who have the flu.
  • Clean surfaces and objects regularly.

If you get the flu, be prepared to stay home until your fever is gone for 24 hours without medicine. The flu usually starts suddenly, but most people will get better in 7 to 10 days.

If you are pregnant or have a chronic disease, you should see your doctor within the first 48 hours of getting the flu.

See your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and a worse cough

Looking for flu information online can be a good idea.  Just be sure you use good resources for facts, such as this website and other trusted sites, like the Center for Disease Control and Prevention as well as http://www.flu.gov/.

For videos and public service announcements about the seasonal flu, visit http://www.cdc.gov/flu/freeresources/media.htm.

If you have questions about seasonal flu, call a Blue Health SolutionsSM health coach at 1.866.262.4764 or (TTY) 1.877.720.7771, weekdays, between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., ET.